If your favorite team were in the playoffs come October, late innings, who would you hate to see come out of that opposing bullpen? Whose bullpen would you fear the most?
Whether it's the bullpen that just wears opposing batters down with arm after quality arm, or the bullpen whose two dominant pitchers just throw darts every time they're run out, which bullpen—right now—would you hate to face?
That's the "filthiest" moniker we're looking to place.
With that in mind, here's the 10 filthiest bullpens in the major leagues.
Notable Relievers: Francisco Cordero, Bill Bray, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Arredondo
Francisco Cordero probably isn't a top 10 closer, but that doesn't mean the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, as a whole, isn't. Cordero himself, however, is having his best season as the Reds' closer; he's 4-3 with a 2.43 ERA and 28 saves. But his WHIP is what's most impressive this year, as it is 0.35 points lower than his career average.
Aroldis Chapman's numbers are as scary good as they are horrifically bad. While he has a horrible BB/9 at 7.2, his K/9 is a phenomenal 14.1. This all shakes out to a very pedestrian 1.97 K/BB.
At any rate, Chapman can come in blowing 100-plus mph heat. And for that, I like him.
Notable Relievers: Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
When Tyler Clippard burst on to the scene in 2010 with 11 wins, some wondered if Clippard was just the heir to fortunate circumstance. But this year he has been even more dazzling, improving on his 2010 stats with a miniscule 1.54 ERA and 0.83 WHIP this season.
However, Drew Storen is the one closing the show in the nation's capital these days. Storen may have the best two-seam fastball in the game right now, gearing it up close to 96 mph at its fastest, and a hard slider to boot.
He took over sole possession of the closing role early on this season after a rocky start by Sean Burnett and has continued to dominate, possessing a 6-2 record with a 2.77 ERA and 34 saves.
Notable Relievers: Joakim Soria, Aaron Crow
In 2010, Joakim Soria was one of the most dominant closers in the game and was expected to be a blue-chip trading piece for the Kansas City Royals this summer. But a slow start kept him in KC until after the July 31 trade deadline.
Aaron Crow was the Royals' highly promoted "closer of the future," and he has been electric since his call-up earlier this year, earning an All-Star nod in July.
But Greg Holland and Louis Coleman have been almost complete surprises this year. Both have been lights out in 40-plus innings this season (each with an ERA well under two and WHIP's hovering right around one).
Notable Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson
Despite struggling with injuries all year long and having a 40-year-old as their closer, the New York Yankees bullpen staff is still nasty enough to make the top 10.
This year, Mariano Rivera has looked more aged at times than he has in seasons past, but he is still one of the most dominant closers in the game. His numbers, once again, speak for themselves: 2.20 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 33 saves.
And while Rafael Soriano has spent a large chunk of the year on the disabled list (and still hasn't seemed to return to 2010 form), David Robertson has stepped in with a stellar year of his own as part of the Yankees middle-relief corps, maintaining a 1.23 ERA in 55 appearances.
Notable Relievers: Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves
Daniel Bard is probably the most dominant relief pitcher who's also not a closer. And what that usually suggests is that your closer is that much better. In this case, that's probably not true, but regardless, it means the Boston Red Sox do have a nasty bullpen.
Bard has had another outstanding year posting a 2.10 ERA and a microscopic 0.82 WHIP—both astounding numbers when you consider he plays in the very hitter-friendly Fenway Park and against some of the best power hitters the AL East has to offer.
Jonathan Papelbon has also been amazing in his own right this year. While his ERA is a little higher than his career average, he has brought it down from last year, and, most importantly, he has successfully converted 29 of 30 possible save opportunities in 2011.
Notable Relievers: Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Darren Oliver
The Texas Rangers bullpen improved dramatically after the July 31 trade deadline due to some crafty moves by general manager Jon Daniels, which catapulted their bullpen to one of the best in baseball.
Neftali Feliz has been a star since his fantastic rookie season one year ago and has put together a respectable sophomore campaign this year, posting a 3.10 ERA and 25 saves.
Set-up man, Mike Adams was the prize the Rangers had their eye on and he will probably become the de facto closer next year when Feliz moves to the starting rotation.
The ageless wonder, Darren Oliver, now 40, is having another great season, anchoring the Rangers middle-relief corps, and Koji Uehara is a troubling right-handed presence out of the Texas bullpen.
Notable Relievers: John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, LaTroy Hawkins
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of a handful of teams that have two legitimate closers on their roster.
John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez both have proven track records as closers, boast 10-plus K/9 stat lines, and, as a result, together are one of the fiercest one-two combos in the major leagues.
What is most strange, however, is a year ago, the Brewers were in the midst of struggling to find an identity for their bullpen.
Suddenly, they have a deep bullpen that features two closers, a pair of premier (albeit aged) set-up men in LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, and a solid middle-relief platoon featuring Sergio Mitre and Kameron Loe.
Notable Relievers: Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp
The Cleveland Indians at No. 3 may come as a surprise to some readers. After all, there are no household names coming out of the Cleveland bullpen, that's for sure. They're like Rodney Dangerfield—"[they] get no respect."
That doesn't stop them from having one of the filthiest bullpens of 2011, however.
Four Indians relievers (Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith) have at least 52 appearances this season, and the highest ERA among them is 2.56. The highest WHIP: 1.16. Together, they've been nothing short of dominating.
Strangely enough, it is the Indians' closer, Chris Perez, who has highest ERA and WHIP among these Indians relievers, but he still has put together a solid season with a 2.96 ERA and 27 saves.
Notable Relievers: Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt
The San Francisco Giants bullpen has a very similar makeup to the Indians bullpen, except that it gets a few more points for name recognition.
Their stable of regular relievers—which includes Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla—has been out-of-this-world good in 2011. They have a combined 2.10 ERA, with Romo leading the way with his 1.67 ERA, (absurd) 0.64 WHIP and 12.66 SO/9.
Oh yeah, and they also have, arguably, the best closer in the game in Brian Wilson—when he's healthy.
Notable Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty
The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, are different. It's not that their bullpen has ace after ace to throw at you. Instead, they have just three pitchers who have been absolutely lights out all season long. And they will chew you up and spit you out.
Chipper Jones said it best when he suggested in a post-game interview that their bullpen is beginning to resemble the Yankees bullpen of the late '90s, when every game turns into a six-inning game because the bullpen shuts the door.
It's absolutely true for the Braves this year. I don't even need to say more, just look at the big three's ridiculous stat lines in 2011, and how could you even argue?
1.70 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 14.56 K/9, 40 SV
6-1 W/L, 1.10 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 27 holds
Oh, and batters are hitting just .100 against Venters since the All-Star break. That's right, one-zero-zero.
1.25 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 24 holds